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6 Palestinians Killed in Israeli West Bank Raid - 2003-04-03


Israeli troops killed six Palestinians and wounded eight more, during separate raids Thursday in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Israeli army officials said their troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships raided a Palestinian refugee camp near Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

The soldiers exchanged fire with Palestinian gunmen and the army fired shots from helicopters. At least four homes were reported demolished during the operation.

Witnesses said about 30 Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers were involved in the attack.

The Israeli army said the raid was aimed at uncovering weapons-smuggling tunnels in Rafah, which lies close to the border with Egypt. Although such tunnels have frequently been discovered in the past, none were found in Thursday's operation.

The operation followed Israeli army raids overnight Wednesday into the West Bank town of Qalqilyah, an area that is under Palestinian self-rule.

Palestinian residents said a 14-year-old Palestinian boy was shot dead by Israeli soldiers firing from jeeps. The Israeli army said the youth was shot as he tried to run away and ignored calls to stop.

Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat condemned the killing. He urged the international community to put pressure on Israel to halt such raids.

Despite the violence, Palestinian security officials confirmed that they had recently resumed contacts with their Israeli counterparts for the first time in months.

The Palestinian officials are demanding, in the talks, that Israeli forces withdraw from Palestinian areas. The Israelis are insisting that Palestinian militant groups first halt their attacks.